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Weekly Wrap Up

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By Dennis Powers

 Republican leaders set legislative agenda

 

Republican leaders joined the governor Thursday at a press conference to announce the specific proposals of their legislative package and detailed the priorities of the House, Senate and new Administration.

The package focuses on two core messages of educating a highly trained workforce: one that will attract high quality jobs and identify the best teachers and creating an environment that keeps in the classrooms across the state.

The following are key provisions of the legislative package:

Education

Tenure reform

One proposal would extend the probationary period for teachers attaining tenure from three years to five years. The proposal also ties teacher evaluation to tenure eligibility.

Charter schools

The charter school provision builds on what Republicans accomplished in 2009 by expanding charter schools even more. This proposal provides the Achievement School District with the ability to authorize charter schools within the district. The legislation also removes the cap on the number of charter schools and allows for open enrollment for charter schools.

Lottery scholarship

The higher education portion of the legislative package will allow the use of lottery scholarship dollars for summer courses, and apply a cap on the number of hours eligible for lottery scholarship funding.

Economic growth

As promised, the governor proposes to tackle tort reform in his legislative package this year. The legislation limits appeal bond to $25,000,000 and caps non-economic damages at $750,000 as well as punitive damages. Republicans believe this reform will do away with the uncertainty that causes businesses to look at States other than Tennessee which takes away much-needed job opportunities for Tennesseans.

Republican leaders in the House say these initial steps in transforming state government will lead to more efficiency and effectiveness and deliver excellent customer service.

House Leaders Announce Immigration Reforms

On Wednesday House and Senate Republican leaders unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration in Tennessee. The plan calls for three distinct principles to address different areas of the law that need to be strengthened in order for private businesses and State and local law enforcement agencies to have the authority to effectively deal with illegal immigration.

Republicans believe the plan is the best way to bring a Tennessee solution to a Tennessee problem. The leaders stressed that by taking a comprehensive approach targeting three distinct areas of the law, the reforms would place Tennessee at the forefront of state efforts to combat illegal immigration and provide a blueprint for other states to follow.

At a press briefing held in the Capitol, Republicans discussed the details of the respective bills.

Under the “Lawful Immigration Enforcement Act” (House Bill1380) reforms include:

In the course of a lawful stop, State and local law enforcement must determine the legal status of the individual in question.

Upon determination of the status and if the individual is determined to have unlawful status, authorities must detain and turn over the individual to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

For the “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act” (House Bill1379) the reforms provide that:

State agencies are authorized to verify the lawful status of an alien in Tennessee.

Any person found to be an unlawful alien is prohibited from receiving any benefits.

Finally, under the “Tennessee Lawful Employment Act” (House Bill 1378) the act will:

Require all employers—both public and private—to submit the names and Social Security numbers of employees hired after October 1, 2011 to the federal Department of Homeland Security for verification.

The “E-Verify” system is 97.4 percent accurate.

Currently, there are approximately 4,000 Tennessee businesses participating in the E-Verify system.

The week ahead…

Committee

Time

Room

Tuesday

Commerce

9:00 a.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Government Operations

9:00 a.m.

Legislative Plaza 30

Judiciary

10:30 a.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Consumer and Employee

Noon

Legislative Plaza 31

State and Local

1:30 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Agriculture

1:30 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 30

Finance

2:30 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Transportation

3:00 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 29

Wednesday

SESSION

9:00 a.m.

House Chambers

Health

12:30 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Children and Family

2:00 p.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

Thursday

Calendar and Rules

8:00 a.m.

Legislative Plaza 16

SESSION

9:00 a.m.

House Chambers